Chicago aldermen now appear likely to consider a proposal introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that would roll back part of the tougher rules they passed to prevent elected officials from lobbying City Hall.
West Side Ald. Jason Ervin used a parliamentary rule to threaten an up-or-down City Council floor vote next month on Lightfoot’s ordinance that would again let elected officials from outside Chicago lobby aldermen, the mayor’s office and other city government departments.
Ervin’s move prompted Ethics Committee Chair Ald. Michele Smith to instead agree to hold a hearing on the proposal in her committee.
While Smith said Wednesday she still opposes any move to weaken the current standards, “I’m willing to listen to ideas my colleagues want to bring forward.”
The city Ethics Board announced earlier in September that in October it would start enforcing the ban on lobbying by any elected officials, which was supposed to take effect in mid-April.
That seemingly would force registered lobbyist Gyata Kimmons to either give up his lucrative City Hall lobbying on behalf of several prominent corporate clients or give up his seat as a village trustee in south suburban Flossmoor.
When the Ethics Board announced it would start enforcing the rules, it said the decision was in part because Lightfoot’s ordinance would apparently not pass. “Sufficient time has now elapsed for any amendment process to have occurred; the board has now confirmed there will be no changes to (the statute)," the board’s ruling read in part.
Now, however, the ordinance is back in play, though it could see considerable changes. Ervin on Wednesday said he plans to offer some amendments to the proposal.
Lightfoot’s office released a statement Wednesday saying she “encourages" members of the Ethics Committee "to work together to reach an agreement on Ordinance O2020-2328 — one that upholds the ethical standards all elected officials should abide by.”
Asked whether he’s acting specifically to help Kimmons — the only lobbyist the Ethics Board identified who ran afoul of the tighter lobbying standards — Ervin said he simply wanted to make the rules fair.
“This isn’t about any one person,” said Ervin, who chairs the City Council Black Caucus. “It’s about trying to make sure we aren’t dissuading people from public service. Under the rules as they now stand, a person couldn’t lobby while serving on a local school council. I don’t think we meant to do that.”
“Now, we don’t want to see members of the General Assembly lobbying City Hall. They pass laws that affect us, and that has the clear potential for a conflict,” Ervin said. “But what about a county commissioner from Jo Daviess County who doesn’t have any business at all with the city, and might want to represent an organization?”
The statute the council passed by a 48-0 vote late last year barred Chicago aldermen from lobbying the county, the state or any other local government units, and prohibited any other elected officials in the state from lobbying the City Council, the mayor or other units of city government.
But in April, Lightfoot said the clause that would stop officials from other jurisdictions from lobbying in the city went too far. Her proposed amendment would have struck that portion, while keeping in place the part barring Chicago aldermen from lobbying other areas of government.
The mayor’s ordinance ran into opposition from Smith, who said she didn’t support the idea of rolling back Chicago’s tougher lobbying guidelines. The ordinance appeared to have stalled in the Ethics Committee, with Lightfoot unwilling to push it herself, until Ervin filed his motion to force the floor vote.
Smith said she expects to hold a hearing on the plan in mid-October.
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